Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spotlight On: Immaculee Ilibagiza, Rwandan Holocaust Survivor

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, I attended a lecture by Immaculee Ilibagiza, the author of Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust at the campus student center of Caldwell College in Caldwell, New Jersey.

From the moment that Immaculee took the stage, a sense of goodness, peacefulness and gentleness overtook the crowd of over 700. Immaculee was able to transform the entire assembly by sharing her story of triumph over adversity and she was able to touch the hearts of those in attendance because she spoke from her heart about compassion, forgiveness and love.

[Reprinted from the book jacket of Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust]

Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Her family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claim the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Miraculously, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's home while hundreds of machete-wielding killer hunted for them.

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having truly discovered the meaning of unconditional love-a love so strong that she was able to seek out and forgive her family's killers.

The triumphant story of this remarkable women's journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering and loss.

Immaculee Ilibagiza captivated the audience not only with her moving account of survival but with the essence of her soul, highlighted by the power of her forgiving, compassionate and loving heart. The evening will leave a lifelong impression on those privileged to attend. Some of the profound thoughts she shared included:
  • The importance of understanding that healing takes time. Immaculee's healing did not happen the moment that she was liberated from her hiding place in Rwanda but over the course of many years.
  • There is always light at the end of the tunnel of every experience no matter how dark and long it seems.
  • Trials allow us to grow and develop a deep inner strength and this strength is often the gift that we are meant to share with others.
  • It is important to pay attention to developing signs of problems. There was intolerance developing over the airways on the pending Rwandan genocide but people did not take it seriously and it escalated into full scale killing of unimaginable proportion.
  • Heartfelt prayer to God is often accompanied by self doubt but one must press on despite all temptations not to believe.
  • All that we pray for will be answered and, if we make promises to God during times of trial, we must keep our promises to him when the trials pass
  • The Scriptures hold profound lessons for us in the Psalms, Proverbs and The Book of Ecclesiastes, especially in regard to love and forgiveness. Immaculee often found solace in these books of the Bible and as she prayed to be delivered from those seeking to kill her, she was continually reminded by these inspired writings to have a heart full of compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love.
  • Since it is based on Scripture, the rosary is powerful. Praying the rosary, especially the sorrowful mysteries inspired Immaculee to realize that if God Himself was persecuted and could still pray "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," so she must have the same heart of forgiveness. As God was forgiving people who were killing him, we must forgive those who persecute us and those whom we love.
  • Anger prevents peace and forgiveness. Each human being must totally surrender to God with peace filled hearts.
  • Individuals must never be judged for appearances. Immaculee remembers the amount of weight she lost during her confinement but her interior strength was beyond measure and impossible to shake.
  • God is truly our only hope. The genocide took the lives of Immaculee's parents, grandparents, siblings, family, friends and community. All perished but Immaculee's hope in God and faith in eternity gave peace to her soul.
  • With God in our lives all difficulties will be overcome.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to speak personally with Immaculee about the trials in contemporary America, particularly in regard to violence, empty places of worship and a crisis of character. We agreed that God has bountifully blessed this land and in very short time its transformation will take place through the goodness of those devoted to its treasured ideals and through the power of prayer by the people of so many great faiths that are privileged to call America home.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home